Valdosta Bike Coop’s VSU Happening Debut

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The 2012 VSU Happening was among the largest, loudest, and busiest in twentyish year history of the event. Every year VSU sets aside one day when it invites its diligent students to set down their books, turn off their documentaries, and meet on the front lawn to sample food, music, and freebies provided by businesses and other groups from the Valdosta area.

This was the first time the Valdosta Bike Co-op was in attendance at the Happening, and it proved to be a real success. Several Co-op volunteers showed up to pass out flyers and sign up new volunteers. Patrick Stanley even gave out about 250 hand-pressed sweatshop-free bike buttons.Image

We want to thank everyone who made it out to the Happening, and especially everyone who visited our table. These kinds of events are a great way to advertise the Co-op and if you’re interested,  we always need volunteers. Not every job requires skill or interest in bike repair. Here are some ways you might be able to get involved.

Advertising: Maybe you’d like to help pass out flyers advertising Critical Mass rides. Every day there are hundreds of bikes chained up along the pedestrian walkway. With your help we can let these folks know about the monthly bike advocacy ride downtown.

Advocacy: Are you interested in government, public policy, or public relations? Even if you’re not we are always looking for volunteers  who are willing to strengthen the ties between local leadership and the Valdosta Bike Co-op. If you’d like to see a greater public emphasis on local transportation alternatives, bike lanes, or a bike park, then you have to get involved with local government to help make your dreams a reality.

There are countless other ways that you can get involved with the Valdosta Bike Co-op. If you are interested in volunteering, during shop hours, or on your own time please email us at cccvaldosta@gmail.com . Let us know your information, availability, and interest level. We’d love to work with you to build a more bike-friendly Valdosta.Image

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2012 Georgia Bikes Law Enforcement Pocket Guide-Free

Maya Angelou said, “when you know better you do better.”

In that spirit I recommend you print out a free copy of Georgia Bikes’ updated Law Enforcement Pocket Guide. This pocket guide is a great place to start educating yourself on bike law in order to become a better rider.

This brief guide is the size of a quarter of a page and conveniently fits in a jersey, bag, or pocket. And if you’ve ever had a run in with a cop who doesn’t know Georgia law relating to bikes then you know this guide is invaluable. In fact, if you visit their site you can even request copies of the pocket guide for your local law enforcement officers.

Inside the guide you’ll find useful information with references like:

  • Bicycles are vehicles and have the same rights and responsibilities on public roads as motorists.[§40-1-1(75)], [§40-6-20(a)]

  • Motor vehicles must provide at least three feet of safe passing distance when overtaking a bicyclist. [§40-6-56]

This guide is a great resource for Valdosta cyclists and we thank Georgia Bikes and New Belgium Brewing Co. for putting the 2012 guide together.

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MAP 21 and You

If you spent the Fourth of July hovering around a barbeque or watching a fireworks display you may have missed the news that a rare bipartisan majority in Congress passed a 2 year transportation bill which President Obama signed into law. While most media sources lauded the bill for being an example of bipartisanship and compromise, it could lead to drastic cuts for bike and pedestrian projects in the State of Georgia.

The bill is called “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP 21 and changes the way bike and pedestrian projects are funded. In previous transportation bills 3 distinct programs existed which were funded individually:

  • Transportation Enhancements
  • Safe Routes to Schools
  • Recreational Trails

Under MAP 21 the previously separate programs have been lumped into one new category, along with other road uses, into a category called “Transportation Alternative.” The result is that now bike-ped projects will be in competition for funding. And according to americabikes.org, “the [overall] funding has been cut by 33%.”

Additionally, MAP 21 contains an “opt-out provision” which allows states to transfer 50% of the reserved “Transportation Alternative” money to any other use without explanation.Image

The program also removed dedicated funding for the Safe Routes to School Program. Safe Routes to School is an international movement with the goal of making it safe, fun, and convenient for kids to walk and bike to school on a daily basis in order to improve community and personal health. Funds are still available for the Safe Routes to School program, but now SRTS must compete with other “Transportation Alternatives” for funding.

So what does all of this mean for you? On some level it means that the goal of building a healthier, more bike and pedestrian friendly community just got a little harder. But there is something you can do.

Advocates like you can reach out to GDOT to ask them to not “opt out” and use the 50 % share of statewide “Transportation Alternatives” money on other projects. Additionally you can ask GDOT to prioritize bike-ped projects through the TA program.

To get involved contact your State Transportation Board member. The representative for District 1 which includes most of Valdosta is Jay Shaw and you can find his contact info through the GDOT website. Here are some points to emphasize:Image

  • Fully award and obligate remaining funds from the Transportation Enhancements Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails programs
  • Fully fund, staff, and implement the new Transportation Alternatives program, which replaces the Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School programs.
  • Retain and utilize all Recreational Trails and Transportation Alternatives allocated to the state-Do not opt out of and transfer these funds to other programs.
  • In keeping with the spirit of Georgia’s newly adopted Complete Streets policy, fully maximize Georgia’s investments in safe, accessible streets by utilizing all MAP 21 funding programs-including the Highway Safety Improvement Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds, and the Surface Transportation Program-to include safe bicycling and walking facilities in all transportation projects.

Many thanks to Georgia Bikes for making us aware of this new legislation.

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TSPLOST–Now What?

Image“Taxed Enough Already!” That’s a pretty clear slogan right? And versatile too; In recent years various groups have used anti-tax populism to talk down a variety of legislation. Most recently, the TSPLOST referendum was cast as a battle between an uncaring, wasteful, state-level Leviathan and hard-working honest citizens. If you paid any attention to the July 31st vote then you already know that TSPLOST went the way of Fonzi, Jello pudding pops, and pogs.

Now that the dust has settled from the referendum vote, this transportation advocate is left wondering a simple question: Now what?

Here’s some quick info to provide a background for this post

  • TSPLOST was the GA state legislature’s plan to regionally fund transportation projects for the next decade.
  • The state was to be broken up into 12 regions which would create a list of transportation improvement projects (read road improvement: the list excluded much needed rail and transit solutions)  and then regionally fund the projects through a 1 cent consumption tax.
  • The TSPLOST referendum only passed in 3 regions in Georgia, and in Lowndes County the measure failed 2 to 1.  

Here’s an abbreviated list of the projects that would have been funded through TSPLOST (remember that all widening projects in the city must include bike lanes):

  • Construction of St. Augustine Rd. Overpass
  • Jerry Jones Road improvements
  • Forrest Street Widening- Park Avenue to Bemiss Road
  • Oak St. Widening: Five Points to Cherry Creek Rd.
  • St. Augustine Rd. at Gornto Road Intersection Improvements
  • St. Augustine Rd. at Norman Dr. Intersection Improvements

To view the complete list click here and scroll down to page 8

Anyone who has driven around Valdosta knows that these projects are needed. But now that the referendum has failed overwhelmingly in our region, what will happen to these projects? Will ambulances and commuters continue to sit at the railroad tracks on St. Augustine while the train switches tracks? Will residents who use Forrest St. as a main North/South artery continue to jam up on their way to work or school? Will non-elective cyclists continue to wear lines in the dirt on Forrest St. where a bike lane could be?

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We’ve contacted members of local government to find out an answer to the “now what?” question and will update you with a new post once we know some answers.

In the meantime, we need to begin to build a coalition of transportation advocates. The TSPLOST vote demonstrated a strong reaction to the legislation, but we need action to build a better transportation future. We have to begin to build a base of knowledgeable informed citizens, rather than a reactionary base of voters. Here are some suggestions that will help explain what it takes to build a more bike-friendly Valdosta:

  1. EDUCATION: Educate yourself on Complete Streets. Complete Streets is the idea that roads should move people, not just cars from place to place. Complete Streets advocates know that planners need to take into account cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians while including sidewalks, trees, and landscaping in road planning. Here are some other helpful resources: Georgia Bikes and League of American Bicyclists.
  2. NETWORKING: Talk to your peers about what you like and don’t like about getting around Valdosta. Next time you’re at the co-op talk specifically about places that you think are dangerous and make a list of possible improvements. You’ll find that others might share your desire for a bus system, or a bike lane on Williams St. By forming a network it will be harder for opponents to marginalize your opinion.
  3. DISCUSS: Don’t be afraid to take your concerns to your local leaders. The truth is, they like hearing well-reasoned arguments, and they like seeing individuals get involved in the process. Go to a city council meeting, meet your local traffic engineer or your councilman and begin a dialogue. Maybe you could write a letter to the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and discuss what it’s like riding a bike in Valdosta.

For more information on how to get involved, or to start a dialogue with other Valdosta cyclists stop by the Valdosta Bike Coop at 305 E. Mary Street. You can volunteer or just drop in. And stay tuned for more follow-up posts on TSPLOST.

 

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Cycling Quick Tip of the Week: Don’t always trust Google Maps to give you the best route…

Only halfway up

This Valdosta Bike Co-op Blog quick tip of the week is brought to by a seemingly neverending flight of stairs separating yours truly from his destination.

The tip is this: When you’re biking in a new city and you enter directions into your smartphone don’t always trust that the walking directions won’t be interrupted by a breach of say…350 stairs.

Good luck and bike safely Valdosta!

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Bicycle Recycling at the Valdosta Bike Co-op

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Loading up the scrap bikes

We often get asked, “what do you do at the bike co-op?” The easiest answer is this: We handle bicycle recycling. That’s pretty vague right? So here is a quick run down.

First, people from the community donate tired old bikes to the co-op which either get restored or stripped down for parts.

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Here a giant magnet is picking up the scrap bike frames

In the latter scenario, volunteers like you use shop tools to disassemble bikes and salvage any working parts, like wheels, brakes, and miscellaneous nuts and bolts. Since some of the donated bikes only need a few parts to become rideable these spare parts become invaluable during the resoration process.

Still, not every bike is salvageable. If a bicycle has been stored outside often the parts are sometimes too rusty to be re-used. However, these bikes still have a purpose. Once a bike has been stripped of its useful components, it can then be recycled at the salvage yard. This way even the donation of a tired and rusty old bike still helps support the work of the Valdosta Bike Co-op.Image

The tall bike project is a fun and exciting example of bicycle recycling. This three tier tall bike was built entirely out of scrapped out donation bikes and components. Here you can see Patrick riding it down Williams Street. If you are interested in bicycle recycling or if you’d just like to see this rolling nine foot monstrosity then stop by the Valdosta Bike Co-op and get involved.

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Join us at Critical Mass – May 25

There are many ways to celebrate National Bike Month. We at the Valdosta Bike Co-op would like to invite you to ride with us at Critical Mass. Critical Mass rides are held in hundreds of cities around the world, including Valdosta. The rides are neither protests, nor demonstrations. Instead, cyclists who ride in Critical Mass intend to raise awareness about bike safety and proper riding procedure.

By riding en masse, the group hopes to send motorists the simple message that cyclists belong on the road. If you are interested in learning more about Critical Mass or joining in the local ride then bring your bike to the Toombs Street parking lot, adjacent to the Bleu Pub, on the last Friday of every month.  The next ride will be Friday, May 25. Cyclists will meet at 6:00 and the ride will begin at 6:30. Don’t be intimidated, the route is short (3-4 miles) and slow-paced and will lead the group around scenic parts of central Valdosta. On night rides lights are required and helmets are recommended.

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